HC Deb 08 December 2000 vol 359 cc12-3W
Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of discussions on combating the spread of BSE in Europe at the Agriculture Council on 20 and 21 November and the special meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers on 4 December. [142219]

Mr. Nick Brown

I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council on 20 and 21 November and the special meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels on 4 December.

The special meeting had been called to follow up and build upon the measures to combat the spread of BSE decided at the November Council's meeting in response to developments in several continental member states. As a result of the decisions at these two Councils, as well as those taken in the interim by the Commission under its own powers, the EU has put in place in the 14 other member states strengthened protection against BSE which in key respects reflects measures already applying in the UK.

At its November meeting the Council agreed to introduce BSE testing for bovine animals of over 30 months that were either at risk or entering the food chain.

On 21 November the Standing Veterinary Committee voted in favour of a Commission proposal giving effect to the Council agreement by requiring among other things random samples of at risk animals—6,500 in GB and 2,500 in NI annually—to be tested from 1 January 2001, and by requiring all animals over 30 months of age which we slaughtered for human consumption to be tested by a rapid BSE test from 1 July 2001.

On 30 November the SVC agreed Commission proposals to extend the definition of specified risk materials to include all bovine intestines. This has relatively little effect in the UK where bovine intestines of animals over six months were already defined as SRM.

More recently, the special December Council further extended these public health protection measures and also took steps to restore consumer confidence in European beef and support the market.

By qualified majority (German and Finland opposing) the Council adopted a proposal temporarily extending across the EU the prohibition on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to all farm animals, introducing similar prohibitions related to most other processed animal and poultry products and prohibiting the use of fishmeal in ruminant rations.

The Council also agreed to support a scheme for the removal from the market of over-thirty-month animals which have not been tested for BSE. By analogy with the over-thirty-month scheme already applying in the UK, this will both aid pubic health by preventing untested older animals from reaching consumers and support the market by removing from sale animals which, in the current low state of consumer confidence in Europe, have no viable outlet. The detailed rules of the scheme will be discussed at a beef management committee meeting on 12 December with a view to coming into force on 1 January.